11 June 2018

Mike Yastrzemski and the Orioles' Future

Joe Reisel's Archives

Mike Yastrzemski doing what he does best. Photo courtesy of Elaina Ellis / Norfolk Tides
So, Yastrzemski. Is this as good as it gets for him?

After I have finished datacasting a Tides game, I usually walk to the parking lot with Mike, the official scorer, and Paul, the gentleman who runs the pitch timing clock. Mike and Paul are former sportswriters, but they've nevertheless accepted me (I do not claim that my contributions to Camden Depot make me a "sportswriter") and we often talk about the game we've just seen, the Tides, or baseball in general as we make our way to our cars - and, occasionally, as we loiter in the parking lot.

Paul is a long-time Red Sox fan, with fond memories of Carl Yastrzemski. He's also interested in the career of Mike Yastrzemski - Carl's grandson - who has spent much of 2016 and 2017 with the Tides. Mike Yaz started 2018 at AA Bowie, but was eventually promoted to Norfolk when Alex Presley and Michael Saunders opted out of their Orioles contracts. He's made several spectacular defensive plays and is now second in the International League in triples, despite having played only 19 AAA games.

Twenty years ago, when teams carried one or two fewer pitchers, there would definitely be a major-league role, at least for a few years, for a Mike Yastrzemski. In those days, most teams kept a fifth outfielder-type player, a player who may not have been a good batter but was a good defensive player and baserunner. That's Mike Yastrzemski

Of course, that argument doesn't really apply to the 2018 Orioles, who are carrying Craig Gentry, who has the same basic skills as Yastrzemski but (1) hits right-handed, (2) is older, and (3) a few years ago had a couple of years in which he hit fairly well as a part-time player. I'm sure people would disagree, but I don't see any reason to think that Yastrzemski wouldn't outperform Gentry in 2018. That assumes that neither Yastrzemski nor Gentry would be anything more than a backup outfielder.

I replied to Paul that Yastrzemski is not likely to make the Orioles based on his own performance. Of course, he could always be promoted as an injury replacement if an outfielder went down. Or - and this is where things get controversial - if the Orioles do trade away outfielders, I think Yastzemski might get called up to help the Orioles get through the season.

I'm sure that if the Orioles do trade away many of their major-league players, fans want them to promote the future - outfielders like Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins. But, in my opinion, they'd be better off keeping Mullins, Hays, and even DJ Stewart in the minor leagues while playing out the major-league season with fringe minor-league veterans like Mike Yastrzemski. This isn't a wholly-cynical "let's win as few games as we can so we can get a better draft pick" play, although it certainly is relevant. But there's also a very real risk of negatively impacting a player's future career if he's promoted and playing in the major leagues before he's fully developed and ready.

This may be frustrating to Orioles fans, who naturally want the down time to be as short and as painless as possible. And it will no doubt be non-entertaining to watch the Orioles lose games playing the likes of Mike Yastrzemski, Drew Dosch, and Yefry Ramirez instead of players with exciting upside like Austin Hays, Ryan Mountcastle, and Keegan Akin. But the minor-league system exists so that players will be fully developed and ready. There's no point in promoting players to play on a bad team before they are ready. And there's a good reason not to promote them - they may feel pressure to be the "future of the franchise" and fail to perform as well as they should. It could be argued that Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, Zach Britton, and even Chris Tillman were promoted to the major-league team before they were fully developed; when they ran into problems, they weren't able to handle it until they had failed three times, found another role, or were traded away. If at all.

So, Mike Yastrzemski may indeed get a career in the major leagues. Even if he doesn't, he's about at the point where, if he wants to, he can make a little money as a minor-league free agent or in a foreign league. With his name, of course, he could probably have a job for life as a coach in the Red Sox' system. I have no idea what he wants to do with the rest of his life; but he can have a satisfying - if not set-for-life lucrative - career in professional baseball.


Bruce Bryson said...

Little Yaz deserves a look this year. Cut Gentry.

PTCello said...

How about Preston Palmiero?
I don’t know what position he plays, nor how far along he is, but his dad was a big favorite of mine until his appearance in Congress.

Joe Reisel said...

Preston Palmeiro is currently at Frederick.

Rob P said...

I say fire sale the while mlb roster besides Bundy and Guzman. Promote all the fringe type playersvwe have and see if any of them catch fire

PTCello said...

I would actually like to see a discussion of the virtues of trading Bundy. We have him for three more years I think, but the team is probably going to be awful for all three of those years, so poor Bundy would be just like Manny another great pitcher suffering on a horrible team. If we trade him now we could bring back an all-time high return. There’s no real justification for wasting a great pitcher on a bad team Instead of converting that pitcher into future production.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

Matt Perez wrote about a Bundy trade in April: http://camdendepot.blogspot.com/2018/04/is-bundy-next-bedard.html

I ranked the O's trade chips in May: http://camdendepot.blogspot.com/2018/05/ranking-top-orioles-trade-chips.html

PTCello said...

I don’t know how I missed those because I check out this site every day.
Thank you!

PTCello said...

Ha! I did read that article and commented as well.
Me and my memory...

Jan Frel said...

Stats please on what constitutes bringing someone up early, and success failure rates on either side of that, for pitchers and position players

Charles Kraus said...

Ah, the old let them develop in the minors reasoning. A true talent can perform well in any level. You either have it or you don’t.